wouldn't know a suspect if <one> bit him on the arse

VicNicSor

Banned
Russian
Due to a high volume of missing persons enquiries, a crisis centre has been set up at a school. A police chief talks to someone over the phone:
-- Yeah, the school's going to be a secondary location. We're completely swamped on missing persons. Armstrong [his subordinate, who's leading the case but has been failing so far to find anything] wouldn't know a suspect if one bit him on the arse.
The Fades, TV series

Does "one" sound idiomatic to you here? Isn't it too vague and unspecific? I'd expect "wouldn't know a suspect if they / s/he bit him on the arse", since it's a second mention. Thanks.
 
  • Loob

    Senior Member
    English UK
    "One" doesn't sound vague to me, Vic: it's referring back to "subject".

    It's like the "one" in I've got some oranges - would you like one?
     

    VicNicSor

    Banned
    Russian
    By "one" you're not referring to one specific orange, Loob. Just -- one random orange out of the ones you have, right?

    But in the OP, it does refer back to a specific suspect (I guess you meant suspect by "subject"). And that is what confusing me...:)
     

    VicNicSor

    Banned
    Russian
    No, if a suspect bit him on the arse he would know it (that the biter was a suspect).
    Sorry, what do you mean? It's a different meaning of "know". In the OP it's "recognize", in yours it's "be aware of". And "it" is specific too. It acts as "they", "s/he", only it refers to the fact of biting, not the person...
     

    JulianStuart

    Senior Member
    English (UK then US)
    Sorry, what do you mean? It's a different meaning of "know". In the OP it's "recognize", in yours it's "be aware of". And "it" is specific too. It acts as "they", "s/he", only it refers to the fact of biting, not the person...
    He would not realize that the person who bit him was a suspect because he is not smart enough to recognize suspects, even when they are obvious to everyone else..
     

    VicNicSor

    Banned
    Russian
    Can we think of the OP as this one (with the boldfaced phrase being implied):

    If a suspect bite Armstrong on the arse, he would not know a suspect / one in the biter.
     

    JulianStuart

    Senior Member
    English (UK then US)
    If a suspect bit Armstrong on the arse, he would not even know it is a suspect.
    :thumbsup:
    If the suspect is standing in front of him, Armsrong doesn't recognize that he is a suspect. He still doesn't realize the suspect's identity if the suspect comes up and bites him on the arse. Now, that's dumb. This is the meaning in the OP.
     
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